The new resident with severe psychiatric issues, also a Ionuz, has been off drugs for the last 6 weeks since they, combined with his psychiatric medication, can make him suicidal. The other Ionuz is now a very positive influence in the Centre but struggles with money management.
Finlay MacKenzie is now on his final visit to Romania before retirement. Jeremy Ross, son of Jackie Ross (the founder of Blythswood), takes over from James Campbell as the Blythswood CEO next week and will be monitored by James till he officially retires in 4 months’ time.
There has been no recent movement on contractual negotiations for renting their depot in Cluj. Balazs has visited Montenegro, part of old Yugoslavia, and Blythswood have undertaken to support a church there, largely composed of Roma refugees who now have citizenship in that country. The pastor, himself a refugee from Serbia, does not yet have citizenship in Montenegro.
Blythswood are still looking for a Ukrainian, among the 10,000 Ukrainian refugees in Cluj, to be responsible for what they are doing in the Ukraine.
Adi has now raised the salaries offered by Talita Kum in line with government salaries. His own daughter returns early from pregnancy leave to fill one vacant post and Adi is doing some teaching himself.
He already has about 10 older children who have graduated to high school into a fledgling TK3.
Voice of the Martyrs, 14th September 2023
Pastor Filadelfo, a former drug trafficker who is now an evangelist, has been jailed repeatedly for his gospel witness and was kicked out of his village for refusing to renounce Christ and return to the traditional religious practices of the village.
Because of the prayers and support he has received through VOM, Filadelfo is able to continue to share the gospel in Southern Mexico, praying for the sick and providing Bibles to believers who don’t have one.
Recently, he prayed for an elderly woman who was sick, and she placed her trust in Christ. He provided her with discipleship materials to help her grow in her walk with Christ.
Specific areas within southern Mexico have a high concentration of indigenous minority groups. These minority communities, which maintain a separate identity and language, are systematically oppressed by local authorities.
Christians among them are persecuted by Marxist and animist groups as well as village leaders. Tribal leaders persecute Christians in defence of their indigenous culture, and the federal government allows this.
These communities are remotely located and difficult to reach. Despite persecution, the number of Christians has continued to grow in these areas.
Updates on the persecuted Church – 12 September 2023
Barnabas Fund, 12th August 2023 (excerpts)
- A church minister in southern Kaduna State, Nigeria, was burned to death on 7 September by Fulani Islamist extremists. Three other men were able to escape, but he died in the blaze. “There was no reaction or support from the military forces,” said a senior church leader. Pray that security forces will be awakened to the need to protect Christians.
- A man and a woman in Nepal were attacked on the morning of 5 September for preaching Christianity. A group of extremists handed both Christians to the police. Church leaders report attacks on 7 church buildings in the last 3 weeks. Pray that the 2 arrested will not face charges despite the vague wording of a law banning “hurting religious sentiment”.
- 5 suspected jihadists have been arrested and 5 bombs discovered in Kampala, the capital of Uganda just days after the arrest of another member of the bomb plot as he attempted to enter a church service with an explosive device on Sunday 3 September. All men are linked to the Allied Democratic Forces who carried out a school massacre in June.
- A new report raises concerns that the Azerbaijani blockade of Armenian Christian enclave Nagorno-Karabakh, which began nine months ago on 12 December, represents the beginnings of a new Armenian Genocide.
Voice of the Martyrs, 14th September 2023
Following a surge in security measures along China’s North Korean border, an intricate network of security cameras, watchtowers and other surveillance infrastructure has been established.
The heightened security measures, particularly evident along the eastern river, make it increasingly challenging for North Koreans to flee their authoritarian regime. Movements of diplomats and foreigners in the area are under nearly constant watch.
Satellite imagery has revealed substantial upgrades to Chinese border security along the river since 2019.
A network of security cameras is a primary means through which Chinese authorities monitor their North Korean border. Cameras, approximately 328 yards apart in some areas, provide continuous surveillance coverage.
Almost 12 million North Koreans, nearly half of the population, are undernourished, according to U.N. data.
Heightened border surveillance has produced a rapid drop in defector numbers with only 67 reaching South Korea last year compared to 1,047 in 2019. China’s lockdowns and travel restrictions make it nigh impossible for Koreans to escape from China.
Coupled with China’s long-standing policies criminalising aid to North Koreans in need along the border, these restrictions pose a challenge for humanitarian aid.
Fraser thankfully recovered all the old data after severe technical issues when upgrading some of the NetACT servers. Pray for the systems to be up and running for staff and students throughout Africa without much delay. He has now been invited to help another theological college in South Africa with their library set-up.
The NetACT theological journal may see changes in the near future – possibly joining forces with Association for Christian Theological Education in Africa’s new journal.
Thank God that Dawn is developing good relationships with prison staff at Drakenstein and was able to give one warder a lift home today.
She has offered to provide one to one counselling for men at Medium A from the Restorative Justice course. Pray for a suitable time and for promises made during RJ to be kept.
At least 3 Jehovah’s Witnesses attend the Maximum Bible study every Saturday and their influence seems to be growing. Pray they will hear the truth, question what they learn from JWs and know Jesus for who he is.
Pray for the leaders, staff and volunteers of Hope Prison Ministry to be inspired, humbled and surrounded by God’s power and love.
Thank God for 2 good Bible classes at Drakenstein today. In Maximum we looked at Honesty in Earning – how much harder to be honest or trustworthy if everyone else is being dishonest. It was encouraging when one man gave an example from his cell cleaning rota. Some inmates don’t clean properly so it is tempting for him to do a shoddy job too. Then he remembers who he is and who he really is working for, so he cleans the room thoroughly, for God.
Church in Chains, 29th August 2023 (excerpts)
China’s Administration of Religious Affairs drafted more restrictive religious regulations on 1 September 2023.
Online magazine Bitter Winter says, “In this case, the final text of the Measures… is even worse than the draft”.
China Aid says they “continue to suffocate religious freedom in China.”
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin says, “They obliterate the space for Bible-believing individuals to operate.”
Leaders of China’s government-controlled Three-Self Patriotic Movement have sworn allegiance to them.
Some of the 76 new measures state how Religious Venues must support the CCP and restrict church activities.
Article 3 states: “Places of religious activity shall uphold the leadership of the CCP and the socialist system.”
Article 27 stipulates that religious leaders must “love the motherland and support the socialist system”.
Article 30 orders religious leaders to “support the leadership of the CCP and practise socialist core values.”
Article 36 requires “Places of religious activity to regularly study the policies of the CCP.”
Article 39 stipulates that “sermons shall reflect core socialist values”.
Article 71 warns that “a place of religious activity shall be punished if established without authorisation.”
Joshua Project, 20 September 2023
The Lezgin people of Ukraine are a Muslim group that live and work in brutal weather conditions. Even though the Lezgin are Muslim, they have not relinquished their pre-Islamic belief in the spirit world.
In recent years, some Lezgins have come to faith in Jesus Christ. However, their numbers are so few that they cannot form a fellowship even in Ukraine, the “Bible Belt” of Eastern Europe. Most of them live in Russia’s Caucasus region, one of the least reached parts of the world.
Islam is an obstacle. Being Muslim in a Christian culture like Ukraine means they must actively try to retain their culture.
Followers of Christ can attend Lezgin cultural events and actively learn to appreciate their music and stories. If someone learns enough about their music, they can spread the gospel in a culturally relevant, non-threatening way.
Pray for a movement to Christ among Lezgins in Ukraine and in Russia. Pray for the Lezgin people to see beyond Lezgin culture and identity and give a fair hearing to the gospel. Pray for the Lord to thrust out loving and patient ambassadors who will disciple new Lezgin believers.
The new resident with severe psychiatric continues to be a challenge but Ionuz has benefitted greatly from his time in the Centre but still struggles with money management. They have now lost 3 lads within a few weeks but are expecting two more coming in.
One of Blythswood’s partners in the Ukraine has dropped out since they have other sources of funding who require less accountability than Christian Aid. Negotiations continue for funding of Ukrainians still in Romania.
Balazs’ wife Agnes is coming on Blythswood staff to deal with contractual negotiations for their depot in Cluj. A potential tenant would like to lease the whole depot.
Blythswood are still looking for a Ukrainian in Cluj to be responsible for what they are doing in the Ukraine.
Adi has still not found replacements for the two teachers he has lost and may have to take a more active role in TK2 himself.
He already has 8 older children who have graduated to high school and therefore has them in a fledgling TK3.
International Christian Concern, 28th August 2023
As a religious minority in Egypt, Christians face various pressures to convert to Islam. Women, and particularly Christian widows, face uniquely harsh pressures. When even one family member decides to convert to Islam from Christianity, that decision brings a communal shame to the whole Christian family, even in their own Christian community, family, and church.
One recent case of a Christian family highlights this shame in Egypt. The daughter, who is in her 20s, met and fell in love with a Muslim man in her workplace and a few months later disappeared, having apparently converted to Islam to be married to this man. As a result of the stigma attached to their daughter’s conversion, the father was forced from his job and a younger daughter had her engagement broken off since other families did not want to associate with a family whose daughter did such a thing as convert and elope with a Muslim man.
Egyptian Christians face daily challenges in their communities from the pressures of the majority society around them. ICC continually helps families facing these pressures to remain strong in their faith and to encourage those experiencing shame and stigma in their communities resulting from these types of incidents.
Updates on the persecuted Church – 22 August 2023
Barnabas Fund, 22nd August 2023 (excerpts)
- On August 19, Ehsan, a young Pakistani Christian man, uploaded a video on his TikTok account showing solidarity with the Christian community in Jaranwala, Punjab following anti-Christian riots on August 16. Ehsan, from Sahiwal, 62 miles to the south, was accused of uploading a “blasphemous” message in the video that was hurtful to Muslims’ feelings and dishonouring to Islam. He and his family were forced into hiding once the complaint was registered with the police.
- Pastor’s wife Peace Chinyereugo was fatally wounded and her husband Samuel was injured in a shooting outside their church in Edo State, Nigeria on August 14. The church’s assistant pastor was also injured. The pastor and his wife had just arrived at the church in their car when 3 gunmen approached and opened fire. The pastor and his assistant both received hospital treatment. Ask the Lord to draw close and comfort Peace’s family and friends. Pray for healing for Samuel and his assistant as they recover from the trauma of the attack.
- 2 Myanmar churches and a pastor’s home have been damaged in airstrikes by the military in Christian-majority Chin state. 7 people were injured when a church and a residential home in Ramthlo village were hit on August 12. The same day a pastor’s home in the courtyard of a church in Hakha city was damaged in a missile strike. A church was also hit in an airstrike in Kayah state on August 12. Pray for healing for those wounded in the airstrikes.